Decorated initial T

he ineffectiveness of Parliament in this middle period [of the century] is very remarkable. . . . For the hesitations of Parliament at least there is a comparatively simple explanation. Unfortunately for itself this period in the middle of the nineteenth century was the golden age of the private member of the House of Commons. The House of Commons now controlled the legislation of the country, the working of government and the lives of ministries, but there was at the moment no power which could adequately control the members of the House of Commons. In the eighteenth century the House of Commons had been controlled by the power of patronage and the authority of the Crown, in the late nineteenth century and in the twentieth century the Commons were to be kept under discipline by party.

Immediately after the Reform Bill there had been a two-party system which closely resembled what was to come, but when Peel broke the Corn Laws he broke the Conservative party in two. The larger section of it came to be led by Lord Derby and Disraeli, and remained the best organized party in the country; but it was inky a fragment and never large enough in these middle years to obtain a majority in the House of Commons and maintain a government. The other section, the immediate followers of Peel, simply added to the number of independent groups that served to confuse politics. On the other side there could not be said to be a coherent Whig or Liberal party. . . .

The result was politics without effective discipline and therefore politics without effective purpose. The House coud debate a mater, re-debate it and debate it again and never get anywhere; so it debated Parliamentary reform, so it debated public education. [46-47]


G. Kitson Clark, The Making of Victorian England (1962). New York: Atheneum, 1971.

Last modified 11 April 2017